The World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR), held every two or three years, is the foremost global gathering for the showcasing of rail research developments. UIC members from all around the globe were present, including many also participating in the concurrent Asia Pacific Regional Assembly (APRA). In total, around 1000 delegates participated in the congress.
UIC Chairman Professor Gianluigi Castelli took the floor during the opening ceremony. He said: With the ongoing digitalisation of the transport sector answering customers and business needs, the railway community is facing multiple challenges to its “main pillars”: Customer satisfaction, Sustainability, Safety, Railway capacity, high-end performances. These challenges can only be attained by developing, implementing and assessing an agile, holistic approach. This implies creating a virtuous circle among every possible stakeholder, on a worldwide level. Our research efforts should therefore be directed towards a seamless, coordinated mobility among different modes of transit”.
He followed by saying: “Intermodality is the key and the ultimate goal not only of our railway sector, but of the entire transport sector. The integration with road, air, maritime transport are opportunities to further enhance our efficiency and gain technological and economic advantage.
Such integration could only be achieved by developing and implementing innovative technologies. Examples include the 5G mobile environment, the FRMCS, Freight 4.0, the “Network-slicing”, IoTs, the use of renewable sources of energy; not to mention the variety of cross-sector synergy programmes (MaaS, Air+Rail, Door2Door) that offer a novel method to predict induced traffic demand for our transportation method, while reducing congestion”.
François Davenne, UIC Director General, participated in the Plenary session on “Research and Development for Future Railways”, together with Dr. Norimichi Kumagai, President, Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), Japan, Ms. Luisa Moisio, Director of Research and Development, RSSB, UK, Ms. Carole Desnot, Chief Innovation Officer, SNCF, France, Mr. Carlo Borghini, Executive Director, Shift2Rail, EU and Dr. ZHOU Li, Chairman, China Academy of Railway Sciences (CARS), China.
He highlighted that the main issue for rail is to become the backbone for low carbon emission transport mobility, with two main requirements: the ability to manage internal interfaces to become more efficient and the issue of flexible capacity and the ability of managing external interfaces with other modes (multimodality) or other actors (digital ecosystem). In this respect, in order innovate and master the cost the railways should focus on system modelling and modularity and seek inspiration in the success of other sectors (OSI for Telecom, and OSI and SESAR development for aviation).
He said: “As far as internal interfaces are concerned, the network productivity can be increased by relying on digitalisation and the advent of Artificial Intelligence. We have here a clear prospect for automation in transport, that would change the whole industry, we have in the research field two main enablers:
The first enabler is the use of 5G for traffic management: To this end, UIC is working on the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS). The core of this evolution is the Signalling & Telecommunication system that should be able to contribute to the increase of capacity and flexibility of the network, paving the way for new services. The benefits of FRMCS will only be instrumental if we have the possibility to develop a common vision of what a common railway modelling system should be. To this end, UIC is developing RailTopoModel (RTM), a logical object model based on class diagrams that sets out to standardise the representation of railway infrastructure-related data.”
He also advocated that Research should focus on making energy sober and modal shift to the railways desirable for customers. A dedicated event on this issue will be organised in Brussels in February 2020 (more information to come).
The UIC booth in the main display area featured many of the recent and current projects, with the AV on our work to develop FRMCS being of particular interest to visitors.
UIC’s International Rail Research Board (IRRB) launched the updated Global Vision for Railway Research (GVRDII) during the event. This was presented by Professor Boris Lapidus of RZD, the current Chair of IRRB. Martin Brennan presented a paper on the 12 Capabilities, and Dennis Schut spoke on progress with the South East Europe Strategic Alliance for Rail Innovation (SEESARI) initiative. Francois Davenne introduced a ‘layered approach’ model of the railways as the backbone of mobility developed within Rail System department.
Several of the key WCRR Plenary and Organised sessions were chaired by UIC Directors, including Simon Fletcher on Passenger Comfort and on Low Cost Operation, Francis Bedel on Level Crossings and Jerzy Wisniewski on Safety, Security and Natural Hazards and on Safety Assessment.
One paper was submitted by Parinaz Bazeghi from UIC passenger department and presented during WCRR on increasing the efficiency of railway stations by relocating the service facilities using simulation.
Associated technical visits allowed participants to see the latest developments in the Japanese railways and included a fascinating insight to the RTRI research and innovation centre, where technology on display included flywheels, superconductors, hydrogen-powered trains, obstacle detection methods, and machines to assess passenger comfort for high speed operation, plus many more.
UIC thanks again Mr. Ikuo Watanabe and RTRI, Member of the UIC Asia-Pacific region, for hosting this congress.
The next WCRR is to be held in Birmingham, UK, in 2022, jointly hosted by the University of Birmingham, RSSB and Network Rail. UIC is a member of the Organising and Executive Committees planning this event. UIC’s own planning for participation will begin in earnest in January 2020.